BONG update

October 7, 2003
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Charley Stough’s latest BONG Bull is out. Among the fun stuff is an anecdote from one of the folks at F5, a free weekly in Wichita that seems to demonstrate that coolness can stand up to a strong west wind. If you’ve seen the movie Twister you should remember what F5 means. I sent Charley an e-mail requesting unforgettable horror stories of the transition from hot type to cold type. Here’s one of Charley’s lingering memories:

Gee, we can’t think of any, except maybe when Dayton Daily News
aviation writer Jack Jones’s 1,575-word story turned up in the
classified ads one day around 1975, about six months after it had
appeared in the news columns. Jonesy didn’t have to pay for the ad so it
didn’t seem important at the time.

Then there was all that plugger stuff we edited, printed out and kept
in what became known as the Disaster Can, to be slapped onto the pages
in the event of a major breakdown; yard-long stuff about Ethiopian
goats, etc. More than once we caught yahoos from the Journal Herald down
on our floor, rifling drawers for that can.

And there was the midnight shift created so someone came in and
purged the old Hendrix drums to make room for incoming wire stuff. Cox
had a visceral hatred of night differential pay in 1976, so it offered
$5 weekly merit raises to five editors for doing the lob shift. They got
the chore one week out of five, amounting to a $5 per-shift
differential-that-never-was. Well, it took the geeks about six months to
cobble together an automatic purge and the shift was abolished, but
merit raises don’t end. The last of the Graveyard 5 still on the
payroll, BONG’s Chief Copyboy clocked something more than $6,000 for the
work by the time retirement came in 2001. And yes, Guild-organized DDN
does pay a night differential now: $3 per shift.

As always, the latest Bull is online at Newsgorilla and Topica.

On the subject of technological horrors: At my previous job, one of the old-timers loved to tell the story of a 1970s vintage typesetting computer so underpowered that only one story could be typeset at a time, so somebody would raise an arm high in the air to signify that a story was being typeset. Before sending the story, people had to scan the newsroom for raised hands. I love telling this story in combination with the experience I had while visiting washingtonpost.com for a job interview in the summer of 1999. Apparently the Post’s Website had a similar problem, except that only one story could be posted to the Web at a time, so somebody would have to shout “POSTING” to the rest of the newsroom to avoid getting things crossed up. Presumably this problem has been fixed.

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